My grandma died last week. She had a very good death, something that I am, sadly, very qualified to determine.
I have yet to write the story of her passing; of my profound gratitude at being a part of her peaceful transition to whatever comes next; of my experience of love and family in my grandma's cozy bedroom as she finished her living. I will tell that story, and soon, but for now, I am deeply occupied with one of the lessons my grandma taught me.
I do not idolize her. She was a flawed woman who lived a hard life and of the many words I could use to describe her, nice would not be one of them.
Nope, my grandma was not a conventional cookies-and-milk sort of a woman. She was more hard edges than soft roundness, in ways both literal and metaphorical.
What my grandma did was love me. Every day, all the time, no matter what. She loved me when I was easy to love—charming, bright toddler; eager, bookish 9-year-old; curious adult who wanted to hear all the stories of her interesting life; middle-aged lunch companion. She loved me no less when I was far more difficult to love—sour, unpleasant teenager; high school dropout; neglectful young adult who didn't make time to call.
She was there, always, often in the background of my life, and she waited there. She loved me from near or far, never pushing but always available.
I don't recall ever having a conversation about love with my grandma. She was very intelligent, but not much of a philosophizer or deep-conversation-haver. And still, she taught me some of the most important lesson about love that I will ever learn: you show up for the people you love. You just show up, whatever that might mean, however it might look, you show up.
I'd like to gracefully segue this, but my face is leaking, so I'll just be less-than-graceful and say my grandma's example is the bedrock on which I parent. A child with a serious mental illness can be a damn hard child to love; that child's embittered teenage siblings are no easier. I have felt hopeless about some of those relationships from time to time, but I keep showing up. Whether my kids can hear me or not, I let them know that I love them.
I'm challenged, constantly, by this special needs parenting gig. I mean, I was challenged by parenting long before my special needs son entered our lives, but his arrival added new dimensions to the difficulties. I second-guess myself; wonder what I should do next, how I should handle this situation or that issue. I struggle and question and try.
For today, I'm taking a play out of Grammy's playbook. It's probably appropriate for me to work hard to parent well; to choose my actions carefully. But for today, I'm just going to show up and love my kids. I could do far worse than following my grandma's example.
Adrienne Jones lives in Albuquerque, NM with her husband and their four children. She writes the blog No Points for Style.